“An [art work] is first and foremost an expression of its medium.”
This is #5 from Kit White’s 101 Things to Learn in Art School. “The medium is the artwork’s first identity. It is secondarily about what it depicts.”
This is very relevant to my sculpture. One of the first aspects that a viewer is impacted by in my sculpture is the medium. Almost invariably, the first question from a gallery visitor is “What kind of stone is this?” Because contemporary stone sculpture is still quite rare in the scope of exhibited art, one is struck by the medium when one encounters it. The medium of stone itself is enough to set my work apart from other artists.
I have learned that particular types of stone are best suited for different forms and subjects. For detailed and complex compositions, it is best to use monochromatic stone that has little or no patterning (above left, “Siren Seduction”). Although Michelangelo insisted on using marble that is as pure white as possible, I prefer to see just a little pattern as this assures to the viewer that the medium is actually stone. With plain coloured stone, the form relies on light and shadow to describe its contours.
For abstract, or simple compositions, I will use multi-coloured and patterned stone, as the stone itself takes centre stage and the form is secondary (above right, “The Surprise”). I will also use coloured stone for certain wildlife sculpture, if the pattern fits the subject. In these instances, the medium first catches the viewer’s eye and then the form is appreciated secondly. Nature does such a superb job of creating wonderful stone that one should not try to compete, but instead compliment the medium.
White goes on to say, “Form shapes content… In all great work, the subject and the means by which it is rendered are inseparable. Master your technique to protect your content.”